Heinz Kohut died in Chicago on October 8, 1981, at the age of sixty-eight. I had known Heinz for more than thirty years. He was one of my teachers at the Chicago Institute, he was my friend, my colleague, and a courageous man who was respected, highly regarded, and a charismatic figure to many.
In recent years, his theoretical and clinical ideas stimulated new lines of thought, controversy, and ferment. His ideas provided additional evidence that in our field not all psychoanalysts agree with one another, and ours is not a set of clinical theories that are immutable. In fact, our discipline has a history that is filled with debate and disagreements. It is this level of skepticism that can be very fruitful for further advances. Theories are evaluated by clinicians and scholars on the basis of evidence. Through this process of scientific assessment, theories are modified, accepted, questioned, rejected, or may become the stimulus for further scientific research. Unfortunately, issues of politics, prejudice, power, and ad hominem concerns can interfere with the more objective evaluation of the ideas. If a field is to grow and develop, we must pay attention to newer concepts and not become too involved with the people who are identified with the ideas themselves. This observation is not new, but I feel it bears repetition if we are to assess a contribution, whether it proves to be all or partially correct or incorrect, independent of the originators.
The facts of Heinz's life are known: his migration to the United States in wartime as a result of Hitler's anti-Semitism and racial laws; his arrival in Chicago, alone and without close friends or family; his progression through neurology to psychiatry and psychoanalysis. His encouragement of younger people may be less known. I first met Heinz through his writings.
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